FIELD OF DREAMS

Design engineering is a lot like baseball. Scoring the home runs and winning the game is what counts in the end. Just getting to first base isn’t an option anymore. Unfortunately, some teams still have better equipment to play with than others. While some forward looking companies have embraced new technology, others have languished in the dark ages. Designers working for these luddites may be lucky if they can get access to a 386 PC that the accounts department isn’t using anymore.

While we’d like to believe that all designers now have access to 200MHz Windows NT based Internet-ready Pentium machines equipped with the latest in CD ROM drives, design and modelling software and Internet access, the reality is that they do not. Many companies are still content to make do with what they have. The `if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality reigns supreme. Why spend the money if you don’t have to?

For many engineers, design isn’t a glamourous process. They work on relatively mundane projects that do not require a great deal of innovation. As such, many managers question the need to buy them expensive new high tech products. They are often too shortsighted to realise the long-term effects of purchasing such equipment, despite the fact that the benefits are immeasurable.

User groups on the Internet, for example, can help the designer engineer interact with like-minded colleagues who may be working on similar projects. Catalogues and standard parts drawings on CD ROM and the Internet can help designers select new products more effectively and incorporate them into their designs in a jiffy. Scanners and optical drives can eliminate endless searches through paper archives. 3D solids models can aid with the visualisation process. Stereolithography and rapid tooling can be used to get designs to market quicker. But how many of these techniques do you actually use?